Children's literature emerged as a distinct and independent genre only a little more than two centuries ago. Prior to the mid-eighteenth century, books were rarely created specifically for children, and children's reading was generally confined to literature intended for their education and moral edification rather than for their amusement. Religious works, grammar books, and "courtesy books" (which offered instruction on proper behavior) were virtually the only early books directed at children. In these books illustration played a relatively minor role, usually consisting of small woodcut vignettes or engraved frontispieces created by anonymous illustrators.
New attitudes toward children and their education began to develop in the late seventeenth century, when many educators appealed for greater consideration of children's distinctive needs and when the notion of pleasure in learning was becoming more widely accepted. By the early eighteenth century interest in children's literature (and a rise in literacy) led to new markets and a flourishing of new publishers, particularly in England. Innovations in typography and printing allowed greater freedom in reproducing art through engraving, woodcut, etching, and aquatint, although illustrators were still largely anonymous and illustrations confined to frontispieces.